Brother MFC-6490CW

Brother breaks the mould by releasing the world's first all-in-one A3 inkjet printer. Could this be the start of a trend?

There are three ways of connecting up the Brother MFC-6490CW: USB 2.0 cable, Ethernet network connection or 802.11g wireless. All three methods are straightforward, with wireless setup handled by three different auto protocols: Secure Easy Setup, ADSS and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which may well make it easy to set up encrypted connections, depending on the make and technology of your router.

The 50-sheet ADF, which is available once you've folded out its top cover, enables you to copy and fax A3 documents, assuming the receiving fax can handle this size, too. If you have bound documents to scan, you can hinge the ADF back to reveal the flatbed, but only to around 45 degrees, which can make access to the flatbed awkward.

Brother claims the machine can hit 28ppm when printing A4 pages in colour and 33ppm when printing in black. With average office document sizes of around four or five pages, we don't think you'll see anything like these speeds. A five-page test document took 1:12, giving a real-world speed of just over 4ppm and an equivalent five-page text and colour graphics test took 1:52, or 2.7ppm. A five-page A3 black text print competed in 1:53, so again just over 2.6ppm.

Copying isn't much quicker, with a single page, A4 copy taking around 45 seconds and an A3 one about 15 seconds less, not what we expected, at 30 seconds. Copies from the flatbed and from the ADF took very similar times.

Text print quality is pretty good, not up to the best laser printers but well up with the top contenders in business inkjets. Colour graphics look a little insipid, all coming out a deal paler than the original documents and colour copies exhibit an even paler pallor and some change of hue, in comparison with what was being copied. Photo prints, on Brother's recommended gloss paper, look clean and reasonably bright, though some darker shadow details can get lost.

Print comes from the four Brother ink cartridges which plug in behind a drop-down cover at the front of the MFC-6490CW. They come in two capacities and the higher yield versions produce black and colour page costs of 3.3p and 8.2p, respectively. The black print cost is a little on the high side, though colour is reasonable for a machine in this price bracket. This is not a particularly expensive printer to run.

Verdict

We suspect this is the first of several A3 all-in-one printers to be released by the major manufacturers over the next year. While it's well-specified and does its job reasonably well, there are some design flaws in the menu system and it would benefit from auto-size detection in its two paper trays.

Resolution: 6,000 x 1,200dpi Speed: 33ppm (28ppm black) A3 multifunction printer Paper handling: 250-sheet paper tray plus 150-sheet multi-purpose Document handling: 50-sheet ADF for colour scans and copies Duty cycle: 5,000 page monthly duty cycle Connectivity: USB 2.0, Ethernet and 802.11g WiFi Software: Brother ControlCenter3, PhotoCapture Center, driver

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